RYAN’S DAUGHTER – film location as tourist magnet

The old school house can still teach visitors a thing or two.

There wasn’t much going on in the village of Dun Chaoin (Dunquin) perched on the end of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. Until 1970, when film director David Lean arrived to make Ryan’s Daughter.

The place sparked up for a year and a half as filming ran way over time and over budget. When shooting finally finished, Lean offered to leave the village sets there as a tourist attraction. The residents couldn’t see the point of that, according to our guide John from South West Walks – the film sets would make useful firewood and that was about it.

DVDs of the film are on sale in every souvenir shop in the area. I’ve seen Ryan’s Daughter, but remember little of it. I know it’s not Mr Lean’s most highly regarded work, and certainly not as memorable as his epics Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

What I do remember from it is John Mills playing the village idiot, Michael, a role which won him an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. I’m sure he was good, although the academy voters always seem to me unduly impressed by actors who play people with disabilities – think Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot, Geoffrey Rush in Shine, Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. They’re all fine actors who delivered excellent performances, but it’s easier than it looks to stammer, limp and twitch a bit.

But back to Ryan’s Daughter. On a spectacular headland looking across to Great Blasket Island stands the only surviving relic of the film – the old school house. It was nice to stand on the spot where Sarah Miles and Robert Mitchum had been.

‘KD’ and ‘GG’ have tried to attract attention by adding their initials to the gateposts. Yes, we noticed you, and we think you’re dickheads.

The school set from Ryan's Daughter. Note the separate entrances for boys and girls.

The writer was the guest of South West Walks and Utracks.

14 Comments

Filed under Ireland

14 responses to “RYAN’S DAUGHTER – film location as tourist magnet

  1. I think I was just a kid at the time and it was the first time I’d seen sex – fully clothed I think – on screen. I thought i was so grown up!
    See you soon Richard.

  2. I love this movie. I went to see it again on the big screen when it came back for its 30th (I think) anniversary. John Mills was wonderful in the role as was Sarah Miles, Robert Mitchum and Leo McKearn. When it first came out I had a poster of Christopher Jones on my bedroom wall – along with Marlon Brando. I have the DVD and watch it regularly. I think you can see that I am a fan. I would love to go there.
    Sorry about the test. I have just bought an i Pad and I was having an (unsuccessful) lesson. For 2 pins I would return it to the shop. If one more person tells me that Apple Mac is easier to use than a PC I’ll hit them over the head with it.

  3. I’m answering this from my iPad, just to see if I can, BdL. Must watch Ryan’s Daughter again, it seems.

  4. Norah Lacey

    Some of the scenes were filmed on ong Beach in Cape Town, South Africa.
    I seem to recall that this was one of the first times our city had been used in this way.

  5. jpg

    Basically all the scenes with Sarah Miles and Trevor howard on a beach, Sarah Miles and the Major on a beach and the major and Michael on a beach were all shot in South Africa because the weather during the shot in Ireland was awful even by Kerry standards. You can tell which scenes are in SA because the sea looks more turquoise, you can also see the distinct mountains of Houts bay in the background and also the distinctive ship wreck.

    http://www.360cities.net/image/shipwreck-on-long-beach-kommetjie-cape-town-south-africa?utm_source=google_earth&utm_medium=all_images#556.88,73.15,70.0

    • Thanks very much for all this. I’ll have to look out for the film next time it comes on The Classic Movies channel on Foxtel. I wonder if the beach in South Africa is also cashing in on Ryan’s Daughter tourism.

      • Bernard

        Over three decades, I confess to twice having pulled away and replaced the tin covering the then sealed windows of the Ryan’s Daughter schoolhouse previous to and then later with my young kids. This fall, I’ll be making my first visit in many years to see the now open derelict. it won’t appear the same but I’m confident there’ll be many fine memories to compensate.

  6. John Hughes

    Just returned from my second visit to the Dingle peninsula – first visit was in 2001. The old school house continues to deteriorate and really should be saved as a tourist attraction / film museum. The film Ryan’s Daughter was panned by the so called critics at the time but to me it’s a fascinating film, shot in an amazingly beautiful location and with a strong historical content of the IRA’s struggle aginst the British army.

    • Thanks for this John. Yes, it is a lovely part of the world and a great film location. Though I heard they were eventually forced by bad weather to go elsewhere to shoot some of Ryan’s Daughter.

  7. EMMA

    The part played by Christopher Jones was at first intended for Marlon Brando -a guest at David Lean’s wedding reception in 1955.But Brando ended up playing in ” Queimada” aka” Burn” instead. Interesting to figure out how he would have played the part.

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